Skip main navigation

Playing the tune “Inch Worm”

The tune "Inch Worm"
6.9
I want to do some improvising on the major seventh chord. There are not many tunes that just have major sevenths in their structure. I am going to choose one that does or, at least, that’s how I am going to play it. This is a tune that was brought to the jazz repertoire by John Coltrane. It’s a children’s tune. I can remember Danny Kaye singing it in some children’s film. It’s called “Inch Worm”. It’s what we call a “two chord trick”,
40.3
because once you get to the jazz there are just two chords: one bar of one chord, a second bar of the second chord. We are going to play it over Fmajor7 and Eflat major7 as our two chords. I have a feeling that Coltrane plays it over F7 and Eflat7, but this is an exercise in improvising in voiced position with our major scales. John Coltrane brought some other unlikely material to the jazz repertoire, for example “My Favourite Things” from “The Sound Of Music” was a stalwart tune of his throughout much of his career. First of all the tune. Well it’s unusual in the fact that it’s in 3/4 - it’s a waltz. That shouldn’t cause us too many problems.
90.3
Were just gonna still play in the left hand one chord to the bar and then improvise in the same way
95.7
as we have done before using our three approaches: scalic, chordal and motivic. Right the tune. Now the tune, as I have written it for you, I have given it a chord sequence but it’s a pretty basic one. Let’s go through it. First of all I am going to play the tune with the voicings
117.1
in the lower position: namely for Fmajor7 I am going to use the third inversion voicing which is the major triad and the major seventh - so that’s Fmajor7 - then Eflat major7. In bar 6 I’ve got Bflat major7 - the 69 is the closest to Fmajor7.
140.3
Then unusually in the seventh bar we’ve got two chords: Fmajor7 and G7 - again the thirteenth voicing is the closest to C7. It’s the first time we have had a bar with two chords in it.
155.7
We just play it as you might imagine: 123, 123. You just play that G7 on the last beat of the bar. We won’t worry about the tune too much other than saying that a similar thing happens when we get to the 15th bar - it’s a 16 bar tune - where you have Fmajor7 on the first beat of the bar, C7 on the third beat of the bar, Fmajor7. Where again we use the ninth voicing of C7 because it’s the closest. Let’s play the tune now. I’ll play the tune up here in this octave because then
193.4
there’s no question of the hands clashing: 123, 223.
224.6
OK, that’s playing the tune with the voicings in the lower position. Let’s move up to the voicings in the upper position starting on 69 - there’s F69 - there’s Eflat69. We want a chord for Bflat major which is closed to those two. We use the third inversion. Then we want a chord for G7. We use the ninth and for C7 we use the thirteenth.
253.3
So,for example, in the 15th bar it’s going to go: 123, 12 - 123, 1.
262.1
Let’s try this now for the upper voicings with the tune: 123, 223.
294.5
We’re going to play this with a playalong and I’m going to play the tune in the middle of the piano because I think it sounds better there and using the lower voicings. What I am going to do then is - the hands are going to overlap and the tune has to win - so, for example in the first bar, I’m going to let my thumb in the right hand play C and leave the thumb in the left hand out of it. Similarly, in the next bar. Now when we come to a playalong there is a bit of a problem because there isn’t, as far as I know, an Aebersold version of “Inch Worm”.
339.3
I would like you to hear, at least, what it’s like when we get to the improvising bit. I am less concerned with the tune, but we’ll play it for the sake of completeness.
349.8
As I said, I think there is a version when John Coltrane plays it - even when he’s playing the tune - that there’s only two chords in it. What I am going to use for my playalong is something called “iRealB” - I Real Book. It’s software you have to pay for. I think it’s principally designed for the iPhone and the iPad, though there is a version that I have got on my MacBook. You can put in chord sequences and it will produce a bass and drums track for you, perhaps not in the same league as Aebersold but still quite useful. I don’t use it much but I am going to use it on this occasion.
389.6
Let’s have a go first of all at just playing the tune.
418.7
Now in the upper position.

We introduce the tune “Inch Worm” which has been chosen because of its simple structure.

You can download “Inch Worm” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

This article is from the free online

Learn Jazz Piano: Begin with the Blues

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education